Zachary Barnes brings you AVENGARDE a new fantasy adventure
Brad R. Cook
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with author Zachary Barnes about his latest novel AVENGARDE. A fantasy novel that tackles issues of xenophobia and intolerance
AVENGARDE by Zachary Barnes
Avengarde, by author and tutor Zachary Barnes, offers a tale of courage and humanity in the face of racism and genocide. Marking his debut in traditional publishing, Avengarde will be released by PandaMonk Publishing out of Annandale, Virginia. Distinguishing itself among fantasy books through its intimate point of view, Avengarde’s message warns against the seductive power of hate and is particularly timely given the current political climate of division and anger. Because of this, Avengarde is both poignant and fitting to our times.
Avengarde’s protagonist, the maimed and clever Taveol, has found one final place of refuge: a city of ice and blood, perched on the frozen edge of the known world. Here, in Avengarde, he believes he is safe from the ghosts of his mercenary past. But when Taveol harbors Aerwyn—a wounded Fae fugitive—on the eve of an oncoming ethnic cleansing, the two exiles are caught in the middle of a vast racial conflict that is tearing their city apart, stone by stone. And when Taveol’s nemesis arrives at the head of a genocidal warband, the paths to survival and to revenge become that much harder to differentiate.
Encircled by enemies old and new, Taveol must choose to either save himself or risk everything for the culture and people he has grown to love.
Avengarde is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, visit www.zacharybarnes.us for more.
I asked Zachary a few questions about AVENGARDE and his writing process.
What brings your writing into focus, the characters, the stories, or the love of crafting words?
While I love the idea of crafting words, that intensely cerebral kind of writing is actually when I’m at my worst—at least for the first draft. My writing becomes focused when I am in the groove of a storyline or scene and creating at breakneck speeds. Knowing that details can be honed later and that story and content take precedent is very freeing for me, since it allows me to create a raw chunk of story that is, at its core, true to itself and in line with my intent.
What inspired your latest book, and what do you think readers will like about it?
One evening when I was climbing into bed, I suddenly and quite vividly imagined a scene where an innkeeper was thrown out of his own inn by his rowdy patrons.
Ah yes, great scene,
It seemed nicely ironic, but I went to sleep without giving it a second thought. When I woke the next morning, the scene was still rattling around in my brain, so I decided to write it down, if only to keep it from pestering me throughout the day. This was the beginning of Avengarde, and although I eventually removed this particular scene from the final draft, I think it really set the tone from the start, at least for me.
I really liked that scene, but I totally see why you pulled it.
Along similar lines, I hope that readers will appreciate the protagonist’s self-deprecating humor. His internal asides and one-line quips were by far the most enjoyable part of the writing process, and I hope that readers can share some of that joy with me.
How much fact is in your fiction?
I borrow quite a bit from history, which I find serves my goal of analyzing our reality through a distorted lens. So, were you to look at the details of my writing you would notice that many “facts” find a home in my fiction, although some of them change meaning when stripped of their context (which I also find both interesting and important). I steal anything from Balinese graveyard topengs to Vlad III’s penchant for violent foreign diplomacy and wend it into my own stories all with the intention of creating a world that is distinctly familiar, yet mysterious at the same time.
What is your A+, number 1 writing/editing/query-reading snack?
I was recently exposed to the marvel that is Vietnamese coffee and I must say: my life has been irrevocably changed. The potent amount of sugar and the high caffeine content, plus a rapid rate of delivery, ensures my recommended minimum of 3,000 words per minute;
Holy moley! So, it turns you into a super hero… (It’s called humor people, no emails)
also, when I crash into a blubbering pile afterwards, I can conveniently blame my lack of any real writing progress on my physical state. It’s my all-time favorite perfect first draft beverage.
If you could meet one of your characters, who would it be and where would you meet?
As a rule, I choose to write about characters who are dissatisfied if not outright angry with their lot in life. They are in the perfect place to desire change and cause tension, both of which are important components of a gripping story. I’d probably move quickly past most of my characters if I met them walking to work, but the one person I might stop and chat with is Silje Blackeye—a three-hundred-year-old Fae general who, besides being a little too ornery, is a relatively level-headed guy. If I could, I’d take him on a hike through Great Falls and pick his brain with the hopes of learning a thing or two about the art of guerilla warfare.
What are the top three pieces of advice you'd like to give new writers?
First off, if you have the correct tools—i.e. a pocket-sized hydrogen bomb and a can of peanut butter—remove the “backspace” and “delete” keys from your keyboard before you start the first draft. Both of these keys are evil and must be destroyed. If you are doing anything but generating content on the first go-through, you may be overthinking the process.
Secondly, criticism is inevitable, so prepare yourself. When it comes to other writers, their opinions are just that; you should put their ideas in context with what you want to achieve and go from there.
So true, your name is on the book.
Lastly, sit down and write. Right now. Stop reading. I mean it. Go!
*Jumps up, runs to computer, starts writing this blog* Wait. We’re not done.
One final question, which line did you struggle with more, the first or the last?
In the months of writing that led up to finishing Avengarde, I had been mulling over a big choice that would only be appropriately accomplished in the very last chapter. The decision was between true tragedy and a thematically jarring twist, and I knew that this choice would heavily influence the readers’ takeaway message. I ended up writing both endings, swapping them back and forth, and even “testing” them on my alpha readers. So, you might say that the actual lines were easy to write, but I took a long time deciding how cynical I wanted the ending to be.
Check out AVENGARDE by Zachary Barnes
“Avengarde is a refreshing piece of fantasy. From the first-person narrative to the heavy themes of discrimination and genocide, Avengarde feels urgent, but also inviting. Barnes walks a fine line between creating a vast new world for his readers to escape to and explore, and holding up a distorted mirror to teach us something about our own world and our own ways.” – Nathan Moore, author of From the Margins
“Avengarde is a rich and engaging world! Detailed descriptions and immersive characters will draw readers in and keep them enthralled as the Sons of Dawn hunt every last Fae.” – Brad R. Cook, author of Iron Horsemen
Zachary Barnes is a fantasy author who has been self-publishing since 2007. His first novel, Winter’s Throne, debuted in 2010. After attending James Madison University for Music Education, Zachary—originally from Pennsylvania—moved to Northern Virginia where he began his career in education and met his publishers. Avengarde represents Zachary’s first contracted book deal. Currently, Zachary is the assistant manager and lead tutor at the Reading and Writing Center at Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus.
Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen - http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Horsemen-The-Chronicles/dp/0989207951, Iron Zulu - http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Zulu-Book-Two-Chronicles/dp/0989207978, and Iron Lotus https://www.amazon.com/Iron-Lotus-Chronicles-Brad-Cook/dp/099639012X. A member of SCBWI, he currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more at www.bradrcook.com, on Twitter @bradrcook https://twitter.com/bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr http://bradrcook.tumblr.com/